When I wrote about how Facebook itself wasn’t neccessarily a great intranet, but Facebook-type systems would be, Emmanuele pointed me toward Workbook, a Facebook application which creates a secure Facebook for the enterprise. The idea is that if you can create a secure Facebook area to connect with work colleagues, you get a social networking intranet with the look and feel of Facebook that users know and love, as well as a system pre-populated with all your contacts. Therefore Facebook can be used as a corporate intranet.
This raised the following thoughts:
- Irrespective of whether or not you use Facebook or an internal Facebook-type system, the point about seeding content is 100% valid. Adoption will significantly increase if a user’s contacts are pre-loaded rather than requiring him or her to manually add them. As I’m sure Dvir will tell you, there is some great technology coming out of organisations such as IBM which not only would pre-populate a system from a corporate directory, but also would analyse users’ email, instant messaging, SMS, phone and voicemail records to deduce a contact list (including external contacts), and pre-populate accordingly.
- I’m still not entirely convinced that having a corporate system appear exactly as Facebook is a good idea. Whilst it may appear to Gen-Y, we still have a job to do in getting the digitial immigrant generation to use social networking tools. If the corporate version looks identical to Facebook, this may actually put them off! As long as the UI is intuitive, Gen-Y will get it. The compromise between Facebook functionality, but corporate branding I think is the best bet to get adoption from both sides of the digital divide.
- Whilst the line between a professional and personal contact is blurring, some users still see value, and actively wish to keep the two separate. Again, this is important in keeping the digitial immigrants on board.
- I still believe that the corporate-Facebook has different functionality than the social-Facebook. This is because they solve fundamentally different problems. Facebook is a way of keeping in touch with people with very low effort. I am in frequent touch with friends who have moved away or on to different lives where previously the relationship would be reduced to sending a Christmas card every year, “just to stay in touch”. Corporate-Facebook is about finding expertise, reaching out to people you don’t know and evaluating whether they are a trustworthy person with whom it is worth sharing knowledge and expertise. So where Facebook revolves around photos, corporate-Facebook systems revolve around link-sharing. Facebook focuses on “what you are doing right now” whereas corporate-Facebook focuses more on “what you know (and who you know ) right now”. So whilst there are obvious functional similarities (embedded instant messaging for starters) their purpose is very different.
Thanks to Emanuele for raising these questions that made me revisit this topic! Whichever side of the fence you sit on whether corporates should use Facebook itself or systems such as IBM Connections or Microsoft Sharepoint which offer Facebook-style functionality, there’s certainly a consenus growing that social software is useful!